A newcomer in the world of home care, Papa offers “family on demand” to older adults. But what exactly does that mean? Essentially, Papa Pals — the company’s term for its caregivers — provide companionship, transportation, and assistance with activities around the house.
I’ve worked as a Papa Pal for the past few months, and I’ve learned much about how the service can help older adults. Papa is no replacement for a certified caregiver — who can assist with toileting, dressing, and bathing — but it’s a great solution for seniors in need of social activity or light assistance.
Pros and Cons of Papa
Convenient scheduling: Unlike home care agencies that require contracts and weekly regimens of caregiver visits, Papa allows for greater flexibility. Care can be scheduled whenever you want it with no commitments required.
Highly affordable: Administered through health insurance or employer plans, Papa services are free for those who qualify.
Companionship and assistance: Papa services are flexible and adaptive, ranging from simple companionship to assistance without household chores and running errands.
Transportation assistance: Papa verifies the auto insurance of its Pals, allowing them to drive users to appointments or errands.
Nationwide availability: Papa is currently available in all 50 states.
Not publicly available (for now): Anyone can apply to work as a Papa Pal, but you can receive Papa services only through either your health insurance plan or employer. That will likely change in the future.
Expertise and certification: At a home care agency, caregivers are usually certified or trained to assist with activities of daily living: feeding, ambulation, dressing, hygiene, and toileting. Papa Pals, however, cannot assist with these tasks, nor can they provide medical care.
Initially founded as a platform pairing seniors with college students for companionship, Papa has evolved into a nationwide service for companion care. Through either their health plan or employer, members can find a Papa Pal who will visit them in their home, providing both company and assistance with various household tasks.
What Do Papa Pals Do?
In most cases, Papa visits last between two and four hours. During this time, a Papa Pal can help with the following:
Companionship: From watching a movie to playing cards to simply chatting, one of the main duties of Papa Pals is providing uplifting conversation and company.
Household tasks: Although not as handy as TaskRabbit Taskers — at least in my case — Papa Pals can certainly help you with laundry, food prep, pet care, or cleaning.
Transportation and errands: Using their own cars, Papa Pals can drive members to appointments or errands. They can also accompany you inside.
Exercise: Papa Pals can help you exercise, whether that means going for a walk or engaging in some yoga.
Medication adherence: Papa Pals cannot administer medication, but they can certainly remind you to take any prescribed medications.
In my experience as a Papa Pal, I’ve learned that most users want the social aspect of care. I’ve certainly spent some time changing litter boxes and chopping vegetables, but the majority of my work has consisted of conversing, playing board games, going for walks, and watching television.
What Are the Limits of Papa?
When we think of home care, we most often think of companies such as Right At Home or Comfort Keepers, which provide in-home care services for seniors. These companies sometimes provide companion care, but they generally focus on assistance with mobility, toileting, and bathing. Those activities of daily living require training to perform, and they can easily result in injury when performed improperly.
To put this in perspective, my training and certification as a Papa Pal consisted of only three elements:
I passed a background check.
I attended an hour-long training session, much of which focused on the care tasks I wasn’t certified to perform.
I verified my car insurance. (This portion is only necessary for people who wish to take seniors in their car.)
This is not to criticize Papa’s vetting process for Pals; rather, it’s to put into perspective what they’re capable of doing. Household chores, conversation, and meal preparation require few skills. The main quality required of Papa Pals is a desire to help older adults.
Papa Pals vs. Personal Caregivers
Provide companionship, transportation, and assistance with household chores.
Likely hold no caregiver training or health certifications.
Free through insurance or employer plans.
Require no contracts or weekly commitments of care on part of the client.
Can be booked flexibly and with little notice.
Provide assistance with mobility, hygiene, feeding, and toileting, in addition to companionship, household assistance, and transportation.
Have passed caregiver certification courses and may also be a CNA or HHA.
Cost between $20 and $35 an hour, depending on location.
When booked through an agency, require a contract and minimum hourly commitments for visits.
Are usually scheduled far in advance.
How Much Does Papa Cost?
While Papa is only available through insurance and employer benefit programs, the service is completely free to those who qualify. Compare this to companion services from home care agencies, which normally cost $20-$40 per hour.
Another advantage of Papa is flexibility. With Papa, you can book care as needed with no commitments required. Home care agencies, however, usually require you to commit to a minimum number of care hours per week.
How Much Does Papa Pay?
Papa Pals can expect to make roughly $15 per hour, depending on your location. I’m located in Nevada, and I currently make $14 per hour. They also reimburse me $0.28 per mile traveled to, from, and during my visits.
Similar to Uber, Papa also offers bonuses to Pals who complete more than two visits in a day or six visits in a week, but I have yet to earn those bonuses.
How to Use Papa
At the time of this writing, Papa (as a service) is available only through certain health plans and employer benefits, but I expect that to change in the coming years. If you’re curious about using Papa, then you should contact your employer or health insurance provider, since they may have a partnership with Papa.
Once you verify that you have access to Papa, signing up is simple. You provide your name, age, and other personal information, in addition to a payment method. Once that is all verified, you can begin seeking in-person visits with Papa.
The process is handled online. Simply choose a date and length for the visit. You can also note the main type of tasks needed from a Pal. Once posted, a Pal can accept the visit, call to discuss what’s needed of them, and arrange to arrive at the designated time. You can arrange visits over the phone, but I find that the app makes the process even easier.
Payment, insurance, directions, and instructions are all provided through the Papa app, making it extraordinarily easy to schedule care.
According to the CDC, nearly a quarter of adults 65 and older are socially isolated, which increases the risk of depression, dementia, and death. I think Papa is an innovative service that can potentially help this population.
Papa Pals are not a substitute for people in need of professional care, but I think the companionship they offer can provide untold boosts to a person’s self-esteem and overall happiness. I especially appreciate the ease with which you can use Papa. Unlike other sources of care, Papa is incredibly flexible and highly affordable.
When it eventually becomes more widely available, I can definitely see Papa becoming incredibly popular.
To learn more about the ways to care for your loved ones, check out our additional guides.
Yes, all Papa Pals must pass a background check before beginning employment.
Ryan has years of experience researching and testing products that help people successfully age in place. After years of working for various publications such as Boston Magazine and The Believer, he has found his home at The Senior List, writing about all things related to caregiving and senior healthcare.